I try to stay out of agricultural politics. I’d rather support farmers by buying their wonderful produce without having to testify on their behalf. Sometimes, however, circumstances land on your shoulder like a little butterfly—or in this case, a light brown apple moth (LBAM). For the past two years, I’ve been active in opposing California’s quarantine of small farms that find themselves shut down due to a small (and according to the farmers we work with, harmless) leaf-rolling moth. Blue Moon Organics farm in Aptos, CA, was shut down two years ago under the quarantine at the height of harvest. Owner/farmer Greg Rollins was unable to sell his crop, and it turned out that the agency in charge of managing the quarantine program misidentified the caterpillar that they found in his organic strawberry fields. Two years later, Greg’s farm is still struggling to recover from that setback.
Think about this: In New Zealand, where the LBAM is prevalent and has been for a very long time, there is no quarantine structure because it’s not considered a dangerous pest. Thus apples grown in an orchard in New Zealand, where the moths fly free, are harvested, packed up, inspected, and shipped to the United States for sale.
Meanwhile, California apple farms might be denied sale due to the presence of the same moth. What’s the difference here? I can’t figure it out. Why does a distance of 6,800 miles, and perhaps the New Zealand moths’ use of the word “mate” as a noun rather than a verb, get them special treatment?
While I’m sure that others were as shocked as I was to hear that American moths aren’t given the same rights as New Zealand moths, what concerns me more is that the state of California has accidentally (I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt for the moment) created an inequity in international trade policy that benefits New Zealand farms at the expense of California farmers who are trying to make a living and steward the land locally. It’s one of those things I can’t believe exists. Who makes this stuff up? “I’ve got a great idea. Let’s do all we can to restrict our farmers from making a living and taking care of the land and give a better deal to farmers that ship in produce from thousands of miles away.” Agriculture in America is a bizarre beast, indeed.
Enjoy & Be Fruitful! – Chris Mittelstaedt